Children with HIV May Have Higher Risk of Tooth Decay

Children born with the human immunodeficiency virus may have a higher risk of developing tooth decay, according to a study published in May 2018 in the journal Microbiome.

A team led by researchers at The Forsyth Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, compared oral microbiome levels and associations with tooth and severe gum disease in two groups of children.

The first group included 154 children and adolescents born infected with human immunodeficiency virus and the second included 100 children and adolescents born to HIV-infected mothers, but who were not infected themselves. The children ranged between age 10 and 22 years and were enrolled in the Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study Adolescent Master Protocol, a long-term observational study of children born infected with HIV and those exposed, but not infected.

The study found that the presence of Corynebacterium — a type of bacteria normally found in orally healthy people — was around 80 percent lower in HIV-infected participants than in uninfected participants. In addition, 62 percent of HIV-infected participants had tooth decay compared with 45 percent of uninfected participants.

“This is critical information, as we are now beginning to have a better understanding of the potential role of the oral microbiome in youth born with HIV,” said Bruce Paster, Ph.D., senior staff member at The Forsyth Institute and a professor of oral medicine, infection and immunity at Harvard School of Dental Medicine in Boston. “It is exciting to think that these bacteria could be involved in protecting teeth from cavities — this may guide us in developing new therapies to prevent dental decay in these youth.”

The American Dental Association’s consumer website MouthHealthy.org offers additional information on tooth decay. The site also features a Symptom Checker that can help patients identify possible oral health conditions.

© 2018 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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